When sitting in a quiet corner cafe, facing the only door and planning your escape becomes a daily choir, you realize you are no more an ordinary citizen. Every newcomer could be a potential death bringer whether it’s a heavily bearded man wearing a raincoat in a warm summer afternoon or a pregnant woman holding her underbelly with her crooked, skeletal fingers. Your eyes vagabond from face to face as if analyzing each soul under the masks. Empty looks greet your expressionless face. You feel you are powerless if what you are terrified of, were to happen. Relief seems like formerly a close friend, now a distant one whom you were cut off from ages ago. Then, you hear a crackling sound like thunder. You look up, hoping to see falling skies and the first drops of rain making contact with your bare skin. However, the terrible sound seems to have scared off even the whitest clouds, as there are none in the bright skies. You return to your seat with extreme uneasiness and reach out to your phone. Social media sites are up and running without a lag. It wasn’t a terrorist attack after all. Only a gas leak explosion in the heart of the city. You take a deep breath, take a sip from your coffee and silently congratulate yourself for surviving another day. Next day, you’ll be returning to your day job… whatever it is. And another ordinary day will commence for you.
There are about 7 billion people (if not more) dominating our planet with each of them having some uniqueness although we are not all that different. Each person has the same capacity to learn regardless of gender, age or race. It’s the conditions that we’re born into that defines our inclination and motivation to reach success easily. Provide the ultimate conditions to everyone equally than we will realize that we are more than alike. We are not sisters or brothers… we are the same – the pieces of a single, shattered entity: The fragments of a single soul.
Here are some points to back up my theory:
1. Think of drops of water and an ocean. Are the drops individual or is the ocean one? or are drops just fragments of the huge ocean?
2. We are stronger when we are together or act in numbers just like bees in a colony, working for their society. There’s always a hive queen among us that we dedicate our lives to even if we are not aware; sometimes in the form of a boss, a strong love interest or a common parent. They are the brain and we are the body, working to ensure its survival.
3. We seem like individuals but in reality we are highly social beings (even bragging requires at least one more person) Perhaps we are always longing for the missing fragments we got separated from.
4. Hatred is taught to us, just as love is. So, we all start life from the same point as newborns. We take different paths as we are taught in the process.
5. We all suffer the same, but show our pain differently as if some people got more emotions while others got more endurance and immunity towards such pain maybe because we were shattered into unequal pieces.
6. Even in language, the word “everyone” is singular despite it includes every single person.
Still not convinced?
Then, put the flora and the fauna into the mix and reconsider. Perhaps, we are just one big planet and we have tinier roles in existence.
As technology keeps developing, we start drifting away from other individuals of flesh and blood close to us, trapping ourselves in prisons of solitude of our own doing (like social media…and oh! The irony!). Soon, we realize what we are desperately looking for… ; being connected to others in the first place, creating a weird dilemma … perhaps strangers but people…to real people who are geographically distanced hundreds of miles apart.
Our quest to find such connections has also affected the language we had been using for ages in unimaginable ways (though if I’m writing it here, it’s imaginable).
The term “selfie” is a good word to demonstrate how much we progressed in terms of being connected to others; the society.
The verb/slash preposition “like” nearly became more commonly used in its “noun” form in an overnight with the sudden impact of the social media like (here it’s a preposition) Facebook, Twitter and instagram. As we started liking (and here it’s a verb) weird looking babies’ pictures along with photos of cats, we started enjoying the impact of being liked by people whom we have never met in person. Then, the number of “likes” (and here it’s a plural noun) started to matter. Some people even paid (or still pay) money to purchase virtual followers or automatic likers. The quality of the content we like has also degraded from real works of art to masterpieces of rubbish that our stranger friends post daily. We like to be liked and this makes us proud somehow.
Here are the specifics of a social experiment I did a while ago: I posted the picture below on one of my social media accounts without a caption and guess how many “likes” I got?
38 likes within minutes…Wow! Maybe I do have some artistic qualities I’m not aware of.
P.S: Hit the like button for this article to honor the content and I’ll like one of your…err…stuff you posted online.
In our infancy, we were taught the wickedness of lying and that we should always be honest towards other kids/people.
Not much time passes before we learn that a society without lies is an utopia. You may have realized this at an early stage (if you’re smart enough) when your parents lie to you to protect you (or at least this is how they defend themselves). That’s the initial shock.
The next stage is in adapting to the society is conceptualizing the degree of lying; believing that white lies are actually necessary to secure a spot amongst friends or society.
Imagine your best friend asking how her new, but horrible dress (let’s say it’s yellow) looks… I can almost hear you saying “Nice”, especially avoiding stronger positive adjectives or exclamations like “wow!” which we consider to be a form of lying. The use of the word “nice” and rolling your eyes to avoid further eye contact really helps you to remain besties.
But, it’s still lying, isn’t it? What is worse is that you’re lying to your best friend…
So, what can be done to ensure not pissing your mate while uttering words of truth.
The answer is simple: Bending the truth! Or not having to lie but still sharing your true opinion/emotions. But how?
Okay, the first lesson is free: “Bending the Truth 101″…
All you have to do is to mumble something barely audible like “hmmm”, following a statement somewhat true : “I think, it would suit you much better if it was in blue”
The key phrase here is “much better”… as “better” doesn’t always mean good. However, it can make the transition from “terrible” to a plain “bad”. The real message you convey would be “Your dress looks bad!”
Another tip is to select words wisely. Here’s another case I once read in an ELT Activity book:
A little girl goes to her mother and asks if she could have ice-cream before dinner. The mother says no. Then, the little girl goes to her father to ask him the same question. The father asks her if she had asked her mother. The girl nods her head in confirmation. The father says “Then, I suppose you can have one”. The girl runs happily towards the ice-cream stash.
Does the girl have a hidden agenda? Yes
Is she lying? No.
Here’s a personal story; I used to live only a couple of blocks from my previous work place (which was on a very busy street) and it usually took me 3 minutes to walk to work. Nobody knew where I lived so whenever I was late for a meeting I would tell my boss that there was heavy traffic (which was indeed true although it never affected me).
No lying, no hard feelings…
As I got older, I mastered truth bending and got along pretty well with friends. But, it wasn’t enough. I started dreaming of a world of total honesty like in the Ricky Gervais movie “The invention of Lying”.
Then, I decided to give it a try; being totally honest with everyone. I lost many friends but the ones who remained… they became my true friends because when you’re totally honest, they become the same and you begin to share the most intimate secrets with each other…That’s priceless…The connection becomes concrete…
You should give it a try to see for yourself.
P.S: I do think this is not one of my best work… but it is to the point… and I admit I’m expecting a few good words about this entry nevertheless.
This blog entry is dedicated to the wonderful people I met during my stay in one of the liveliest cities of the world. So, if you’re looking for an entertaining piece of writing, you may be in the wrong place (unless you’re in it ). Read this at your own risk as it’s highly personal and there will be no refund for your wasted time.
I hereby thank the people below who have touched my heart and will reside there for the rest of my life. ..There’s no particular order in the names below. How could there be? There’s no order in my life:
Roberto (Robin): The joyful owner of the Zakate Café on Blasco Ibaňez Street. He is the living proof that you do not need common language to communicate or even chat.
Vanessa : The merry, fire-haired baker of our favourite coffee shop in Benimaclet. The way she says “Hola!” can make anyone buy an extra bocadillo or two. Serving ten people in limited coffee breaks in relaxed Valencia is not everyone’s cup of tea but she can surprise you by teleporting herself to your table with the coffee you’ve been thinking of but haven’t articulated yet.
Thomas: The friendly German who overruns (Literally). If you see someone running anywhere in the city and you shout his name, the chances are very high that it’s him. His hospitality matches his atlethic skills making him a unique asset to the city.
Alex: Along with Thomas, he may very well be the next German prodigy in athletics in the next Olympic games representing his country in all events. Apart from that, he is a great guide of nightlife and has mastered the Valencian way of drinking beer from the jug while explaining the physics of the whole process.
Carol: An angel who is so kindhearted that makes me wonder if she fell from heaven or just glided down to help people in need, volunteering in everything and not limiting herself only to Valencia. I met her when I had lost my faith in humanity but she literally hugged me back to my senses. Thank you!
Ana: I do not really know her but she was the one who showed me that the world is indeed tiny as she revealed herself to be the best buddy of our course’s secretary. She was the first person I met by coincidence (on my second day) and we already had a common acquaintance and loads to talk about.
Carol’s friends at the beach picnic: I’m ashamed to admit that I do not remember their names but that night they made me feel like one of them. The language barrier turned into dust as we communicated about almost anything from politics to how coffee tasted more delicious if a bean had been consumed and outed by a monkey in Spanglish, Italian and Google translate.
Diego: Pinar’s meet up Diego proved to be a true host even after us arriving 15 minutes late to meet him. Although he had dinner plans with his buddies, he tried to extend our time beyond its limits and introduced us to Ruzafa along with a brief introduction to Spanish politics.
Rafa: A true local of the Mercat central area with a vast knowledge of the city amongst other things. We felt like we had known each other for a very long time. He was full of joy which turned out to be highly contagious.
Victor: Imagine a street artist, a guitarist so talented that he can play local English songs with perfect pronunciation although not being able to speak a single word of English. It was a pity that he was like Cindrella and after 22:30, his glamour had to wear off. The laws prohibited him from carrying on performing his songs after that time but there were no regulations about drunken, shouting tourists stealing the tranquility of the night.
Cavus: When an expat misses home, he looks for a fellow countryman. Well, that had never been the case for me….until that time when we heard Cavus’s (Owner of the kebab restaurant Sofra) voice telling us to sit down and drink Turkish tea. It was so nice to experience Turkish hospitality once more as he offered us the restaurant’s most breezy table (evert time with complimentary tea). We witnessed a life changing event happening in our country together and sat for hours in front of the satellite TV in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Well, next part will be about the rest of the people I met. …soon. …
P.S : You may have noticed that most pictures are missing people (the main theme) but that’s for the readers to find out and experience the people by visiting the places.
What makes a city, a city? Although the unfolding, lengthy beach at the foot of the city helps, it’s not that. The answer is simply its people; the ones living in it and livening it up and giving it a soul.
Imagine a city where people greet their closest friends and strangers they’ve never met in the same fashion; with smiling faces and firm hugs. You can almost touch the sincerity in the air when you hear the musical word “Hola!” exchanged between complete strangers. Try saying it with a sulking face and you’ll discover that you can never do it. The face muscles won’t allow it. Not in Valencia anyway. English is spoken very little to none. Connecting to people with zero aid from language, befriending them with pure emotions, is indeed priceless. The term “language barrier” never exists there. Perhaps, this is because the city houses a mix of cultures; it’s a tiny mosaic from a world map of diverse nations.
On one of my upcoming blog entries, I will describe every single person that has made a positive impact on my life there, not because I don’t want to forget them (which will never happen) but because I want the whole world ( or the people who read my blog) to meet them. (The idea sounds boring for people who don’t know me or them but you can always choose not to read one blog entry) 😉
I have never been a true football fan but I’ve always admired stylish edifices no matter what purpose they serve as they give a city, a lively spirit like the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, home of Valencia FC. Enough of football talk.
My day started in flaming Ankara, continued on planes and airports and finally ended in breezy Valencia. Although the city, lies in the south by the seaside, it didn’t feel disturbingly hot thanks to the trees sheltering the streets from the blazing sun. Ok, now I feel this is becoming rather like small talk. First talking about football and now the weather!
So, let me skip to the interesting bits. What’s the city and it’s people like?
The airport is no bigger than a sizely village square with only a couple of parked planes, which is actually fine because I hate wasting time getting out of the airport. However, the problem is that nobody at the airport seemed to speak English. Not the passport police, not the customs officer who wanted me to explain a bag of medication in my luggage ( like flu medication and vitamin pills…and many more that I had packed as I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find medication in case I got sick ) or the friendly taxi driver who took me to the city centre. It wasn’t much different in the city either. Only a handful of people spoke English. However, all the people I encountered were friendly and eager to help. It motivated me to learn some basic Spanish. Tomorrow, I’ll try that.
This is a close up of my left eye. And below is me trying to understand…
When have we become so obsessed with taking meaningless selfies/close-ups to connect with others? What has changed so much that we try to mingle digitally? Why has making duck faces become more alluring than a simple, sincere smile? Is Uncle Scrooge becoming the next sex idol?